Maddy, dressed in white, stands at the back of the church. At the end of the aisle is Rob – the man she’s about to marry. Next to Rob is Ben – best man and the best friend any two people ever had. And that’s the problem. Because if it wasn’t Rob waiting for her at the altar, there’s a strong chance it would be Ben. Loyal and sensitive Ben has always kept his feelings to himself, but if he turned round and told Maddy she was making a mistake, would she listen? And would he be right? Best friends since childhood, Maddy, Ben and Rob thought their bond was unbreakable. But love changes everything. Maddy has a choice to make but will she choose wisely? Her heart, and the hearts of the two best men she knows, depend on it… (Goodreads)
I must admit that I was tentative about starting You’re the One That I Want by Giovanna Fletcher, as I keep hearing good things about her writing but the previous books I’ve read haven’t lived up to my expectations.
Nevertheless, I went into this novel with an open mind, hoping that it would surprise me. It begins with a wedding scene, as Maddie walks down the aisle to meet her groom, Robert. On her way her eyes meet Ben’s, who she describes as her ‘other love’, immediately setting up a love triangle within the first few pages. We are then flung back into the past to the point when Maddie started at her new primary school and met the inseparable duo of Ben and Robert. The boys take an immediate liking to her and they quickly become a trio, sharing everything together. It is towards the end of primary school that Ben realises he loves Maddie, subtly communicating his message to her with three squeezes of the hand, which is soon to become his trademark way of telling her as he is too frightened to speak the words out loud.
Fast forward a little more and we reach the age of sixteen and the school trip to Paris, where Maddie has recently begun to have feelings for Robert but doesn’t want to risk breaking up the trio. However, it is during this trip that Rob realises he has feelings for her too, and their relationship begins with a kiss on the dance floor. Having planned to tell her how he felt, Ben can only watch in anguish as he loses Maddie to the one person he would never try and compete with – his best friend.
It is when the book skips forward to their university days that relationships are truly put to the test, with Ben and Maddie going to the same campus whilst Robert is miles away. Cue strained romance and drama as Maddie needs to make up her mind what or who she really wants, even if it would mean breaking up their childhood friendship. There are several other time skips throughout the book as they grow up, but on the whole this book is purely about the love triangle between the three and not much else.
I tried hard to like this book, and did appreciate the changing perspectives as we get to see events from both Maddie and Ben’s points of view. However, I was disappointed that we barely get to see anything of Robert other than a few scattered paragraphs, meaning that he always feels left out of the trio and harder to relate to. This might have made the book marginally better, but generally I grew more and more frustrated with all of the characters and found them to be adolescent and whiny. As we are seeing them throughout their school lives this is somewhat understandable, but they never seemed to grow up and Ben never stops pining for Maddie. Rather than seeming like a romantic, enduring love, Ben’s infatuation with Maddie became obsessive and annoying, with him passing up several nicer girls who he completely messes around with.
As a character, I couldn’t have disliked Ben more, despite Fletcher’s attempts to make him seem dependable and comforting. He was always preoccupied with Maddie despite not wanting to ruin his friendship with Robert, and as they grow up I thought he simply became good at playing mind games. When Maddie inevitably finds out about his feelings he always gives the impression of letting her move on but then comes straight back and messes with her head again. It’s like part of him can’t let go of this dream no matter what happens between the three of them, and I thought he was ruining her happiness rather than contributing towards it.
As the book continues, Maddie’s perspective also becomes grating, as she gets ravelled up in this constant dilemma between Rob and Ben. It seems very unrealistic given the context, as she had never considered Ben an option before certain events occur. One small event leaves her feeling like she’s in love with both men, which seemed highly unrealistic and that she was merely confusing platonic love for romantic love. Her chapters become a constant to and fro that quite frankly gets very tiring very quickly. I was annoyed at both her and Ben for the majority of the book and wanted to give them both a big shake. I began to feel sorry for Rob, who is left out of the whole thing and very underused as a character, as we very rarely get an inclination of how he feels.
I found it very hard to read this book and grew very annoyed with both the characters and the writing style throughout the whole thing. Aside from the love triangle very little else happens, making the plot seem very weak and lacking a powerful romance to hold it together. I think Fletcher tries very hard to steer us in a certain direction regarding the plot but I never really connected with the story and felt little empathy for all involved. I didn’t feel that this worked as an adult book and could more easily be labelled a young or new adult title, with a lack of substance to characters and plot.
This book was not my cup of tea and did not live up to previous books that I have read by Fletcher. The characters were weak and the plot was lacking any real romance to keep me gripped by the love triangle. It is hard to choose one of the men over the other and I began to grow bored at the constant to-ing and fro-ing of the heroine. If you’re a fan of Fletcher’s writing then you may enjoy this title more than I did, but otherwise this is not a romance novel that I’d recommend.